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John F. Petrone

Patriots at Work

(16 February 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. 12 No. 7, 16 February 1948, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

“Those no-good, chicken-livered congressmen!” said the General. “They’re a perfect example of what’s wrong with this country. Not enough discipline. Wish I had some of them under my command. I’d teach them ...”

“But after all, it’s perfectly understandable,” said the Banker. “This is an election year, and no matter how much they sympathize with us, they don’t like to take chances. Especially since Wallace has made it such a big issue.”

“I hope no one will feel offended by my bringing this point up again.” said the Preacher a little hesitantly, because the Banker and the General were running the show and didn’t like to be crossed even when things were going well. “But I still think we would have been more successful if we’d called it universal training, rather than universal military training. In delicate situations of this kind a name can play a most important part. If we had only ...”

However, this was an old and familiar complaint, and the others ignored it. The problem now was how to get Congress to pass the peacetime conscription bill, not how to satisfy old women.

“I don’t know what else we can do,” said the Editor with an audible sigh. “Editorials, front page stories, letters to the editor, excerpts from sermons – we can do more of it perhaps, but not better.”

The Bright Young Man who taught philosophy at one of the universities leaned forward and engaged the Banker in a whispered conversation. The General, who could hear them, grunted half-contemptuously and chewed on his cigar. Everyone else waited in respectful silence.

Then the Banker spoke:

“There is no need for us to reproach ourselves. Our work has been so effective that even the AFL Council is reconsidering its traditional opposition to UMT, and you all know how seldom they change their position on anything. The public opinion polls we took so much trouble to arrange have produced ‘results’ exceeding our wildest hopes. The government’s money used for our objectives has been well spent. If necessary, we could stage some dramatic international ‘incident’ but we would prefer to hold that as a last resort. Meanwhile, however, we can proceed to let the people exert direct pressure on Congress. How? By the holding of mass meetings and demonstrations which will raise such a clamor for UMT that Congress will have to act.”

As was to be expected, this proposal met with unanimous acclaim. Plans were quickly formulated. The opening shot in the campaign would be a meeting in New York. No expense was spared, no effort was overlooked, publicity was plentiful. The Seventh Regiment Armory at Park Ave. and 67th St. was chosen as the appropriate place. Feb. 5 was chosen as the time. The National Security Committee, which claims to represent 53 veteran and civilian organizations, all of them 100% patriots and advocates of UMT, was chosen as sponsor of the meeting.

President Truman was asked to send a special message to the audience. The list of distinguished speakers included Owen J. Roberts, former Supreme Court Justice and national chairman of the National Security Committee; Robert P. Patterson, former Secretary of War; Joseph C. Grew, former ambassador to Japan; and in keeping with the civilian tone of the meeting, only one general and no admirals.

* * *

The meeting was a grand success, judging by the four-foot-long report in the Times the next morning. All the dignitaries were present on the speakers’ stand, with lengthy speeches designed to prove peace was impossible without conscription. All the newspapers and press associations were represented at the press table. There was only one hitch – out of 7,835,000 people in New York, the 53 veteran and civilian organizations were able to round up less than 3,000, not counting a couple dozen pickets outside the armory. So we’d better get ready for that international incident.

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